The researchers noted that increased awareness and diagnosis of head injuries, including concussions, may explain some of the increase.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 950 hospitals across the country and found that there were 2.5 million emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries in 2010, a 29 percent increase from 2006. During that same period, overall emergency department visits increased only 3.6 percent.
Concussions and unspecified injuries accounted for most of the increase in traumatic brain injury visits, and the largest increase was seen in children younger than age 3 and adults older than age 60.
Most of the brain injuries were minor and most of the patients were sent home from the emergency department, according to the study, published in the May 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The significant increase in brain injury visits to emergency departments may be due to a number of factors, including increased awareness and diagnoses, Dr. Jennifer Marin, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.
The researchers also said the increase in brain injuries among very young children and seniors suggests that they're not as likely as other age groups to benefit from prevention efforts, such as helmet laws, concussion reduction strategies and improved sports safety practices.
The Brain Trauma Foundation has more about brain trauma.